ED rules

Somehow I have made it to this point in my treatment/ recovery without really having to address ‘ED rules’. Inadvertently I have addressed some of them which had a more direct impact on my meal plan and weight e.g. carbs, eating times etc. and I guess both me and my counsellor figures I had got through this challenge and am living quite ‘rule-free’.

However, I am now at the stage where I am fairly compliant with structured eating so we are working on episodes where things have gone a bit awry and I’ve lapsed into behaviours such as restricting/ bingeing/ purging (vomiting and over-exercising). These are waaaay less frequent than they were, which is great of course. If we take a week to have 42 opportunities (7 days x 6 meals/snacks) I’m on approximately a 60-70% success rate. Ideally though I should be getting through some weeks at 100% and reducing these lapses but it’s yet to happen.

When reviewing my food diary in the session before last, my counsellor was trying to figure out why I’d restricted at certain points, what was the reason behind missed meals etc. I explained these blips with the usual reasons such as ‘hadn’t been shopping so didn’t have anything suitable in’ ‘only had a banana left and I’d already eaten a banana ‘oats are not safe anymore because I binged on them’ ‘was going out for dinner so was anxious about calories’. My counsellor, being the expert that she is, shut this down pretty much straight away and told me this was just ED spouting rules at her and she didn’t need to listen to it until we were going to tackle it, so she tasked me with writing a list of ‘ED rules’ before my next session.

At my next session I arrived with quite the list (I won’t share them here because I don’t want to be causing any ED comparisons!). She read through the pages (yes, plural) and just looked up at me and said ‘Well no wonder you haven’t recovered more if you still have these in your head’. She seemed a bit perturbed that I had never been challenged on some of these before by other therapists/ nurses. This is probably partly due to the fact that I have squirmed my way out of tough things with previous therapists (e.g. food diaries, weighing etc.). When they pushed me on this and told me I had to comply to stay with them I just quit -in fact that’s how this blog started! I think it also might that when being treated as an outpatient no-one actually sees me at mealtimes, and as I have always successfully restored my weight maybe it hadn’t seemed necessary. While the thought of addressing these rules is terrifying (picture me in the session sobbing I JUST CAN’T EAT FOOD ON A PLATE AT HOME WHY DOES IT MATTER WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO RUIN MY LIFE!), I can see that the fact that I had that reaction is exactly the reason why I need to start challenging them!

A part of me wants to argue that it doesn’t seem necessary because I’m at a healthy weight, but then the rational bit of me knows full well that you can still be very disordered whatever your weight. Would I say to someone else that those rules are fine? Even if they weren’t affecting my behaviour I need to address them so they can stop infecting my mind. Most of my rules read like a history of diet approaches and mentality, and if that ethos still has a place in my head then I will never be free. I need to get rid of the weeds and the roots.

So the time has come to face the fear. I have two rules to tackle this week: teaspoons and plates – I’ll keep you updated on my progress – but anyone that might be triggered feel free to stay away – and anyone that is reading this thinking ‘hmmm yeah maybe I do have a few rules that I’ve never addressed’ then I’ve my fingers crossed for your progress too.

 

 

This isn’t what I wanted for my life 

I go to bed tonight with a sore throat, a heavy heart, wet eyes and bleeding skin.

This isn’t what I wanted for my life. I thought I was stronger than this right now. I thought if I kept fighting it would be okay.

I know this is just a knock. I know it’s a bad day, a bad night. I know I will wake up tomorrow regretful but renewed. I know I will keep going, but right now I can’t help but think that this is not what I wanted for my life. It doesn’t matter though, what I think tonight, what matters is tomorrow morning getting up and facing it all again. 

I will wake up in the morning and face it all again because that is what recovery is, step by step, day by day. What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in a while, and everyday I shall try. 

Tonight will pass and tomorrow will come, at least I can be sure of that.

Give it time 

On Monday 18th January 1993 I declared in my first ever diary that I was too fat and I was going on a diet. (In fact I wrote ‘I’m to fat’ – clearly I wasn’t proof reading my entries!)

That statement was the beginning of a near-lifetime experience of disordered eating. 24 years have passed -which is probably more than a lifetime for some of you- and I am still working on recovery. 

It’s taking a while, I have sprints and bursts, and then pauses and set backs. I’ve taken some diversions along the way. I’ve thrown myself in fully, then pulled myself right back out and run and hid. However I can say that for the past few years I have been really trying. I don’t even know what the destination is somedays, what will recovery will look like for me?,  but I know I’m working towards something that is better than before. 

I owe it to the young scared version of myself to aim for a life without fear of food and hatred of my body. I can’t re-do the past years but I can set the tone for the next however many I am lucky to get. 

I’m prepared to be patient and to give it time. I gave ED so many years, why would I not commit to giving recovery the same? However tired I am of fighting, it’s still a better day than without trying. 

So on Wenesday 28th June 2017 I shall declare not that I’m too fat, but that I’m too determined to not see this through. Recovery- I shall give you all the time that it needs. 

(And now I shall go meet my friends for pizza and wine because when you can do that on a Wednesday for £10 why would you not?!) 

A nugget of gold from my counsellor 

I’ve been lying low the last few weeks which generally means I haven’t been having a great time- just the usual low mood eating disorder crap coupled with horrendous body image as I have gained some (necessary, according to my counsellor) weight. I felt like I was just stuck in the same kind of place I’d been in before and with nothing new to share about it, just needed to ride it out and hope it passed. 

I had a much needed session with my counsellor yesterday and she has managed to inspire a kindling of fighting spirit. She reminded me that all the horrible voices are thoughts are part of the illness and while they might grow stronger as I fight them, recovery will be what eventually silences them.

I talked about how awful I feel at what might be my set point and how I don’t think I can tolerate being there, that I have too many bad memories of feeling so rubbish about my body and about how out of control I felt that I didn’t see the point in getting there to bring that all back- if I’m going to feel rubbish I would prefer to be a lower weight and rubbish. 

But then came the nugget of gold wisdom from her- she reminded me that I have never been well at that weight before. So while I have been at that weight maybe about 4 times, at all of them I was still purging, or bingeing and purging. I have had this eating disorder for 20+ years now, really my body doesn’t know what it feels like to be well for any extended period of time, I can’t predict that I will feel the same as I did before as it won’t be the same as it was before, I wasn’t structured eating, I wasn’t not binging, I wasn’t not purging, I wasn’t not restricting. 

This little fact gave me hope that maybe things will be different this time and that I need to keep trusting the process and be open to the possibility that maybe after all of this things will be okay. I just needed something to cling on to to convince myself to keep going and I think she provided it in that once sentence. I need to remain optimistic that maybe I can gain weight and actually be okay with it. Eek!

Learning the difference between can’t and won’t

I had a really challenging session with my counsellor a couple of weeks ago. She asked me how my motivation levels are, which she always starts with I guess to gauge where I’m at. I’d had a rough couple of weeks and there had been some discussion of discharge to give me a break as I was struggling mood-wise. At this session though I was ready to keep fighting and told her that I was committed, that I trusted her and I would do what was necessary to make the most of this opportunity with her.

She asked me how often I had been weighing myself. I said, sheepishly, a few times a day. She said that I needed to get rid of the scales or limit that to once a week. I moaned but I can’t” and started to launch into all the reasons why. She stopped me though and said you can it will just be hard so you won’t”. Harsh, but true. There is no real reason why I can’t do that except that it will make me feel anxious and terrified, and the fact is that I can’t recover without going through a period of feeling anxious and terrified.

We then moved onto meal planning and that I need to be following the meal snack meal snack meal structure with no excuses and need to be planning it the night before. Again, I said “I can’t” and gave my reasons why. She interrupted me though, as she has heard all these excuses before and told me “you can, and this is the only way you will recover, so if you’re deciding you won’t then you need to think about the choice you are making”. Again, harsh but true. I’ll say at this point that my counsellor knows her sh*t and she has been very tolerant and understanding, and will offer whatever support I need for recovery, but she is very clear that she won’t collude with my eating disorder as her job is to help me recover. This is exactly the type of person you need by your side in recovery.

She was was right of course, I can meal plan. I can take 30 mins of everyday to sit down and write out my meals for the next day. I can choose going to the supermarket over watching netflix. I can run less so I’m not too exhausted to cook. I can add carbohydrates to each meal. All of this is within my control, but it involves acknowledging that sometimes I just won’t. 

Eating disorders are a b**ch of an illness. It is not fair that I have one and it is not fair that I have to fight through the terror to get better. But it is a fact that I have to go through that terror if I want to come out the other side, and I do want that. I want a life free from ED. So I am learning the difference between can’t and won’t, and being firm but gentle with myself as I do that.

“It’s not a safe food”

I had a very honest moment with my friend today. She bought us ‘breakfast muffins’ for breakfast this morning. I looked at them and had the immediate panic of do I a) refuse and it be awkward 2) eat and purge 3) eat and try not purge 4) eat some of it and then panic about eating the rest 5) eat some of it, then binge later as the resisting was too much, and then purge….. and so on and so on….

She noticed my face and asked if I didn’t like them – I was going to say no but before I could, I admitted that I did. She said have one then – so I said I would have a small piece. She said no have a whole one and before I knew it I was saying ‘it’s not a safe food’.

She asked me what that meant (aside- imagine a world where safe foods/ danger foods do not exist!What?!) and I paused and then admitted- it’s the kind of thing that I would eat 10 off and then need to be sick. She looked shocked. I guess understanding it in theory and me saying it out loud is different. She asked me should she not eat such stuff in front of me, or not offer it to me. That made me sad, as while that would avoid the issue for now that is not real life. I told her that me learning to eat just a little is a good thing.

It was sobering to realise that purging is so shocking to some people, and yet so mundane to me. I don’t want purging to be part of my life- or at most the smallest part as I can make it. It was mortifying to admit out loud that I would binge (although I still avoided using that word) but it was important too.

I am not a lesser person because I have binged. I am not a lesser person because I have purged. I am doing my best with what circumstances I find myself in. That is all I can do at any one time.

But I do want to take this moment to say to any of you that is ashamed of your binging and/or your purging. This is an illness. It is not a weakness. I am not judging you – because judging myself would not be helpful. It is not our fault we have the urges, but it is within us to change things. Sufficient consistent eating, everything in moderation, self-care, reaching out…we are worth it.

Alone tonight, but not in life

I’m seeing the new year in on my own tonight. I am at my Mum’s and I have the house to myself and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend this new year’s eve. I am unexpectedly single, but doing okay with that. As time passes I feel like the dust is settling and I’m liking the picture of me that is emerging from it all.

I’ve spent quite a lot of new years eves on my own as it’s not a night I typically enjoy. I had far too many drunken nights as a teenager/young adult that would end in tears because a new year didn’t mean a fresh start for me, it meant another year of my eating disorder and depression. I  have had some fab ones though, with some special ones in Sydney, Wanaka (NZ) and Madrid. Seems I enjoy them more when abroad! But when I’m at home I like being just at home and enjoying the evening myself without the weight of social expectation. However, if I’m honest some of those evenings spent alone were lonely and a little sad.

This year however I am completely confident that while I’m alone right now, I’m not alone in life. I have a wonderful family looking out for me, a ton of fabulous friends who let me cry and then make me laugh. I have a couple of professionals who are keeping me on track. I have bloggers out there in the web (yes, you!) who read my words and send me hope through theirs. Being honest with people about all the crazy in my head was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but yet it has resulted in the most rewarding and beautiful consequences. It is so freeing to be myself, mental illnesses and all. And recovery and self care and all those other efforts continue to this freedom.

So while I’m alone tonight I’m definitely not alone. And if I convince even one of you reading who are keeping their demons to themselves tonight to even consider reaching out, that might be the best new years eve ever.

Goodbye 2016, hello 2017, here’s to another year of living. x